Whether an assassin be sentenced to death or he should be given a prison sentence for life? Will the abolition of death penalty result in a sharp increase in the number of murders? These and similar other questions keep agitating the minds of right-thinking persons all over the world after England took the initiative and abolished the death penalty.
Since the beginning of the organized society, capital punishment has been there. In olden days, the prevalent idea was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. If a man took the life of another man, society took the life of the murderer. Such bloodthirsty punishments are no more in tune with the present civilization. Death punishment cannot be justified on moral or ethical grounds. Is not the judge who awards the death sentence, as great a murderer whom he is sending to the gallows?
Different methods are used to finish the life of a criminal. The most prevalent are hanging by a rope and administering of electric shocks. Some military offenders and condemned political prisoners have to face the firing squad to meet their death. In Italy, wartime dictator, Mussolini was killed by a firing squad. In the olden days, the criminals were beheaded.
The head of King Charles I was cut off by a hangman’s ax. Whatever the method is followed to put an end to the life of a criminal, it is revolting and reminds us of the days of barbarism.
More than thirty-five countries have abolished the death penalty and the aftermath of it has done no harm to society. Most of the persons are of the view that punishment should either be reformative or deterrent but the death sentence is neither. It cannot reform the criminal since he is dead and is beyond good and bad. Murder is committed by the murderer in the heat of the moment and he is completely reckless about the consequences of his action. Some people are of the view that spending one’s whole life in prison is a more severe punishment than hanging.
About three centuries ago, there were some two hundred crimes for which the punishment was death. Today murder is the only crime that is punishable with death. The thieves were warned through public hanging in the olden days. But while one thief was being hanged, other thieves were busy in pick-pocketing in the crowd collected there. Also, there is the element of human error. There have been cases when innocent men were sentenced to death and the real culprits were found later.
When hundreds of crimes were punishable with death penalty, people thought that if death sentence was abolished, there would be no fear and hence the crimes would increase. Today, the death sentence has been abolished for all crimes except murder yet there is no wholesale chaos and anarchy as feared by people. Also, there is widespread misuse of the death penalty to kill one’s political rivals. A bogus case is put up in the court, a sham trial is held and the judge sentences the person to death. At the end of World War II, Hitler committed suicide and his great companions were hanged by the order of the War Crimes Tribunal. Their chief crime was that they had been defeated in the war, though the victorious side had done the same acts.
The present era is not that of barbarism and, therefore, the barbarous punishment of death should be abolished. Murderers are not inborn murderers. In fact, they are so because of the circumstances in which they are placed. The society, education, employment opportunities and many other reasons are responsible in turning ordinary human beings into criminals. Even criminals possess something good as a trait in their personality. Hence death penalty is no way to reform criminals.